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Microsoft's Surface Caught Windows OEMs By Surprise 565

MojoKid writes "Microsoft's Surface isn't just an attempt to take on the iPad or an articulation of MS's independent design philosophy — it's a fundamental threat against the OEMs who've spent decades as Microsoft's partners and collectively destroyed the industry's perception of the PC as a high-value product. The adversarial roots run deep. Microsoft didn't tell its partners about Surface until three days before the event and gave only the most minimal details on the product. Only the largest vendors even got a phone call; Asus and Acer, the 4th and 5th largest PC manufacturers worldwide, have stated that they had no idea anything was coming. For OEMs who have spent decades working in lock-step with Redmond, that's deeply unsettling."
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Microsoft's Surface Caught Windows OEMs By Surprise

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  • by kelarius ( 947816 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @10:14AM (#40411061)
    Remember what happened the last time Microsoft tried to compete with Apple hardware by themselves. I predict this hitting the market with the giant *THUD* usually associated with MS products.
  • Doesn't matter... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @10:21AM (#40411133) way or the other. People who want the sleekest looking tablet or phone will go for the iPhone or iPad, and people who want the average market 'just gets the job done' will get Androids. MS is trying to position itself in Apple's space, and in this battle, will lose badly, since it's beauty that's going to win in the end.

    The only thing MS could have done to differentiate itself would have been to make Fusion or Medfield based tablets or phones that could have run some, if not most Windows apps. But by going w/ ARM, which is alien space for them, they've chosen to play on away turf, rather than on home grounds. Why would anyone prefer Windows RT or Windows Phone 8 to either Android or iOS, which has a long head-start over Windows here? This will be a repeat of NT on MIPS and PPC.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 22, 2012 @10:22AM (#40411145)

    Microsoft's lockstep with OEMs has been the most irritating part of their existence to me, from the Windows Tax to the horrendous upcoming UEFI SecureBoot debacle. Hopefully this will split the hardware manufacturers enough so that I can buy some decent parts that have been made with priorities other than 'get the windows sticker.'

  • Re:Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @10:32AM (#40411287)

    I would also guess that they're jealous of the ability of Apple to lock people into their products without attracting much anti-trust attention. From where I sit, the future for consumers and software does not look bright, but the majority of them haven't realized it yet.

  • Re:Survival (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ISoldat53 ( 977164 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @10:33AM (#40411295)
    The problem is that now they are responsible to the end user. Before they had the OEM to shield them from the end user both legally and operationally. MS could always point at the OEM and claim the problem is with the hardware. During the leagal actions agains MS, they claimed they weren't culpable because they didn't sell the product to the end user the OEM or reseller did. This removes that layer of protection and allows class action against MS directly.
  • by P-niiice ( 1703362 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @10:42AM (#40411391)
    That may change, but it's not looking that way right now. This is Apple creating a great product but not listening to potential customers and taking it to the next level. This thing is going to fly off shelves if they can keep the buzz going (and that's a big IF).
  • Re:Survival (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @10:46AM (#40411445)

    The open market's competition to Apple has been lame. I was given a $3500 gift certificate for a notebook PC (couldn't be a MacBook), and the best the market had to offer at the time was a Sony Vaio, I have been using it for 2 years, and a MacBook Air it is not. Even though the Sony wins in some specs, overall it feels cheap, it runs hotter than a MacBook Pro, and it was ungodly expensive. Most of the features it "wins" on paper (BluRay drive, killer speed & graphics) it loses in real life because they generate too much heat and noise to use comfortably. It's not just Sony that's been missing the mark.

    Surface is a very bold attempt to out Apple Apple, I can't say whether it will succeed or fail - I do look forward to the pricing announcements which will decide whether or not I get a Surface or dual booting Air when this Vaio finally bites the dust.

  • by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <gaygirlie&hotmail,com> on Friday June 22, 2012 @10:47AM (#40411475) Homepage

    While there are plenty of things I personally do not like about Windows 8 -- first and foremost Secure boot -- I still cannot help but feel that Microsoft's new direction will translate to various kinds of benefits for the general populace. Microsoft is now pushing for better integration of the hardware with the OS, for cleaner default installations and for innovation in the hardware, the only downside for the general populace being slightly higher prices on their new computers. One can hope that instead of rushing to the bottom the manufacturers will in the future try to focus on producing higher quality hardware and stop with their bloatware-installations and insanely crappy "feature software."(1) There are better ways of offering new software and getting people to buy stuff than just stuffing the computer full of pre-installed trialware, like e.g. why not ASK the user what kind of software they might need on their newly-installed device or what they plan on doing with it, and then OFFER to install trial-versions so they can try and see if the software does what they need?

    (1): a girlfriend just recently bought herself a new laptop from ASUS and I went there to help her set it up. Well, not surprisingly it was chock-full of all kinds of crapware, and ASUS's own software was actually the worst of all. One example of such software from ASUS is ASUS Update: it is nothing more than an application that checks ASUS's website for new driver releases for the laptop, but it is chock-full of spelling mistakes, it's dog-slow, it tries its god damn best to stick out of the desktop like a needle in the eye and so on. Heck, it was trying to install a 500 kilobyte update for 30 minutes before I got fed up with waiting, killed it and installed the update manually, which only took 3 seconds! Another thing I noticed was that the application kept one of the cores at 100% usage at all times, even when it was not doing anything, but when I minimized the application the CPU usage dropped to about 12%: looks like a rather clear case of the application just redrawing its own window all the time as fast as it can, with or without any reason whatsoever for that. It really baffles me how on Earth can ASUS think this is good for their image or for their customers.

  • The market changed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @11:03AM (#40411709)
    The market changed from Microsoft's old model of expensive software on cheap hardware to Apple's current model of free or inexpensive software on expensive hardware.

    In other words, Apple did not just facilitate the paradigm shift towards mobile devices, Apple changed the entire strategic fiscal structure of the market.

    Microsoft's hardware entourage had to be cut free. It would not be the first time Microsoft has left the decaying bodies of its partners behind, after sucking all the profits and life out of them.

  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @11:18AM (#40411933) Journal

    There wasn't anything innovative about the Windows CE / Pocket PC hardware even after generation after generation of devices. Devices would get a slightly faster CPU, or slightly better LCD panels, and that was it. It is my personal opinion that the capacitive method of touchscreen is what truly allowed the iPhone and following devices to succeed. The resistive touchscreen was a hardware limitation that could only support a single touch, did not register a touch when the screen was physically touched (and that makes all the difference in the world, see below), and suffered from accuracy / calibration issues. Microsoft could not create a UI that did not revolve around the stylus until those hardware limitations were overcome, and none of the OEMs had any motivation to invent new hardware that wouldn't even be utilized or accommodated by the OS.

    For example, let's say that Dell invented capacitive touch and wanted to put it in the Dell Axim line of Pocket PCs. So they contact Microsoft and told them of this amazing new touch capability. Do you think Microsoft would then completely throw out their stylus based GUI and embrace the new technology, leaving HP, Casio, Asus and other Pocket PC manufactures totally in the dark? Both Microsoft and the OEMs were crippled in their own ways by relying on the other to make advances. It becomes a "chicken or the egg" first kind of problem.

    Now about touch screens. The problem with using fingers on resistive touchscreens is that you can physically touch the screen, but not press hard enough for it to register. So there was no correlation between sensory reception and interacting with the device. With capacitive touch it can be tuned such that the moment you physically contact the screen (and thus "feel" you touched the screen) a touch will register. That subtlety makes all the difference in the world. Anyone who spent much time using resistive touch, and trying to use it without a stylus (playing games, using 3rd party "touch based" keyboards etc) knows what I'm talking about. My thumbs would be very sore after a gaming session from pushing the screen extra hard to make sure it registered my presses.

  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @11:48AM (#40412373)

    > Microsoft was on of the first to the party. It is just that they sucked.

    Sort-of correct. Microsoft had a tablet ("WinPad" in 1996 and a "MS Tablet PC" in 2000 at Comdex ) and phone ("Pocket PC" in 2000) long before Apple (2010 iPad and 2007 iPhone, respectively; technically Apple had the Newton in 1987 so they were first but we all know how that turned out), yet sales of Apple's hardware blows Microsoft's out of the water? Why is that? (i.e. Why do non-geeks prefer a iPhone / iPad?. Where is the MS Zune now?)

    You mentioned "It is just that they sucked." In business it is ok "to suck", you just have to "suck less then the competition."

    Microsoft continues to fail for the most part (with notable exceptions such as the ones you mentioned) because Microsoft doesn't have a fucking clue about consistent & responsive Hardware+Software+User Experience. Apple mastered "good enough" ages ago. Microsoft's "good enough" means inconsistency. It's attention to the details.

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 22, 2012 @12:06PM (#40412627)

    Google is deathly afraid of the Kindle Fire. They were counting on the fact that people using Android wanted to be able to use the trademarked Android name and include the proprietary Google apps, which they charge money for. Anyone can release a hacked-up device without those, and while some people did, only Amazon has done so successfully. So successfully, in fact, that it's the best selling Android-based tablet and they can't even call it Android.

    Look for Google to counter with a first or second party tablet in the near future. Expect them to push heavily on the proprietary Google services that you don't get on the Kindle Fire.

  • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Circuit Breaker ( 114482 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @12:17PM (#40412789)

    > Quick, how many manufacturers have integrated Kinect into their products? I'm unaware of it being integrated into any hardware. Would a Kinect interface in a laptop be interesting?

    Microsoft won't license out Kinect technology (which they did not even develop themselves, but rather got an exclusive license for from PrimeSense). Furthermore, at the same time they signed the deal, they bought the only other company to offer similar products (I think 3DVision, not sure about the name), and closed them. So they now own an exclusive license for one technology, and all the patents for a differently implemented technology.

    There is no way for anyone to integrate that functionality. And if I were microsoft, I'd buy LeapMotion tomorrow to make sure that stays true for the future.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 22, 2012 @12:20PM (#40412857)

    The net loss for the entire Xbox franchise is $5 billion.

  • Zune 2.0 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <> on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:02PM (#40413447) Journal

    Wow, you're basically the only Non-AC guy who mentions Zune.

    That is the comparison I see the biggest here, except this time it's right in MS's home camp.

    Apple takes world by storm with iPod. MS Scrambles.

    They start with their usual "commodity" strategy and license 20 3rd party hardware makers with some cert specs and calls it "Plays For Sure". So far, so fine. Except Apple was on to something with the whole Integration thing, so generic makers aren't working this time. So then MS does a giant evil backstab and makes the Zune, switching from their classic biz style into a Me Too but minus the 5 years of secret R&D that Apple was doing. So it flopped.

    Apple crushed the phone market with the iPhone, and I'm a casualty. I had a Win Mobile 6 phone, and I hated it. It was an overgrown brick in my pocket. While I dislike some of Apple's snooping, the iPhone makes it easy to download apps and it doesn't auto ring by itself twice a day like the HTC phone did.

    So suddenly Apple figures out that Mac OS isn't actually going anywhere, but it has some good concepts. So they switch the game to Phone & Tablet, and suddenly Microsoft is panicking, after a 20+ year monopoly on Windows? They want to make their own hardware now? THAT has GOT to piss off the OEM network to no end.

    MS gave up ever influencing music, and washed their hands of it.

    But this one? This feels like a Bet the Farm move. Remind me to look up the news 4 years from now when the fake urgency wears off. But this feels different.

  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:14PM (#40413615)

    They acknowledged their mistake there. I believe they caved to Intel's request here, which in the post mortem, they said they shouldn't have. It not only made them unpopular with a lot of the higher-end OEMs, but it also was partially reponsible for the botched Vista release.

    This is a different move. I think the only ones really unhappy and complaining loudly are the cheap, low-cost OEMs. HP and Dell are probably secretly glad, because the higher-end stuff also come with higher margins (remember the race to the bottom that was netbooks?). Of course, they're probably a little bit upset that they now have a fairly high standard that they have to meet. But that's their own fault for thinking they can keep releasing crap into the market and the consumers will lap it up because there's no alternative out there.

  • REACTOS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by emil ( 695 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @02:17PM (#40414461)

    HP, Dell, Acer, and whoever else they can recruit should pledge $1 million for REACTOS development. []

    Windows 8: enough of this foolishness.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong